JERUSALEM (Mar. 21)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman ordered a ceasefire in south Lebanon today. His instructions to Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur were that Israeli forces stop shooting as of 6 p.m. local time (II a.m. EST.)
Weizman hurriedly left a Knesset debate to issue the order. According to military observers here he did so after hearing from Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, supreme commander of United Nations forces in the Middle East, who was in Beirut today conferring with the various parties. Siilasvuo is believed to have obtained an undertaking or understanding from the Lebanese and Syrian authorities that the PLO terrorists would also hold their fire.
The agreement would open the way for the replacement of Israeli forces in south Lebanon by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandated by the UN Security Council’s resolution adopted Sunday. Weizman had stressed earlier that a ceasefire was a precondition for the entry of UNIFIL troops into south Lebanon.
Israeli circles appear satisfied that UNIFIL is prepared to take up positions along the Litani River to prevent terrorists from re-entering south Lebanon. But no date has been set for the deployment of UN forces in the region. (In Washington, State Department spokesman John Trattner, reacting to the Israeli ceasefire, said that to the extent that Israel was going along with what the U.S. had proposed in the United Nations Security Council resolution, “we are happy and satisfied.”)
CONDITIONS FOR AN AGREEMENT
According to some sources here, Israel’s conditions for an agreement on south Lebanon demand that no terrorists be allowed to infiltrate south of the Litani. Israel wants a force to be in control of the three Litani bridges–Kasimyeh in the west, Akiya in the central section and Khardala in the northeast to bar the use of the bridges for the transportation of arms and men, the sources said.
Israel also demands that a mixed gendamerie, comprised of local residents and soldiers of the Lebanese army patrol key villages in the south such as Maroun A-Ras, Ras Bayada, Bint Jibeil and Taibeh, all presently occupied by Israeli forces.
In addition, Israel insists that the part of Tyre revert to purely civilian status; that the two major terrorist bases, Hasbaya in northern Fatahland and Nabatiyeh north of the Litani, come under control of a neutral force; and that Christians in south Lebanon who have been Israel’s allies during the past two years, should not suffer as a result of the new arrangement.
Even before Weizman ordered the ceasefire, the situation in south Lebanon was relatively quiet. Israeli forces control the entire region except for a five kilometer-wide enclave around Tyre. Israel controls the south bank of the Litani. Syrian forces are deployed 15 kilometers north of the river but have scouts on the north banks to keep a close watch on Israeli movements.
MEDICAL AID FOR LEBANESE
With mopping up operations virtually ended, Israeli forces rendered medical assistance to Lebanese villagers injured during the fighting. Relief units were concentrated around the remains of Abbasiyeh, once a major terrorist stronghold that was reduced to rubble by Israeli air and artillery bombardment. Israeli units were busy extricating villagers from the debris today and medics treated the injured. About 20 villagers, including women and children, were flown to hospitals in Israel for further treatment.
Israeli forces are under orders to prevent the looting of Moslem villages by Maronite Christians seeking booty or revenge. Several were arrested. Israeli authorities are also checking reports that Iraqi supplies and equipment were reaching the terrorists in the Nabatiyeh region north of the Litani which is under Syrian protection.